Saturday, 11 April 2015

Medway Council Elections 2015 – Initial Thoughts

Now that the lists of candidates for the Medway Council elections have been published for the 22 wards here, comprising 55 seats in total, I have been able to firm-up my predictions. However I am not making those public this time, as that information combined with my now-established reputation could give the 'wrong' parties some (small but definite) benefit – and I am certainly not in the business of doing that!

Therefore this is just a collection of some general thoughts that have come to me while going through these 22 'Statements of Persons Nominated', as they are called, which I downloaded from here a few hours ago, shortly after they became available. These are, for some odd reason, in docx form rather than the usual PDF file format. This produces odd effects, such as missing or too-narrow table columns, when read on anything other than the Microsoft Word program, and is thus not 'open' as all local council (and national government) documents are required to be.

Notwithstanding the technical issues, I have been able to work out who is standing for which party (or as an independent), their addresses and where they will appear on the ballot paper.

Regarding addresses, it is interesting to note a greater proportion than usual of candidates not living in the ward where they are standing for election. There is no legal problem with this, and indeed it is possible for a candidate from outside the ward to be at least as good as any other. For example, there are several wards in which I'd probably be an excellent choice if I were to stand there (Princes Park and Strood South spring immediately to mind) – though I am no longer in that business, so no candidate need fear my presence in competition to themselves!

It is true that many of those are so-called 'paper candidates' (or paperless in Lib Dem parlance) who are standing in places they know they haven't a hope of taking from the sitting party. For example, Labour in Hempstead & Wigmore ward, or Conservatives in Chatham Central – or (if they were to be honest with themselves) Green or TUSC in any ward.

Those last two are interesting cases, by the way, as both have put up more candidates here than they have ever done before: TUSC (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition) with one in each ward, so 22 candidates; and the Greens with 13. It is perhaps surprising that such a self-proclaimed growing party as the Greens, who only this week stated in the media that they have more members than UKIP, can't find as many candidates (UKIP have 32).

Printing a ward leaflet for one candidate costs just as much as doing the same for two or three as appropriate, and takes just as much effort to deliver. I suspect it is in reality merely a logistical device to get their General Election material out across the three (well, two and a half) constituencies, as TUSC and the Greens each have the full set of three parliamentary candidates. In this case, TUSC will have the better coverage as their council candidates will of course be keen to deliver and canvass in all those 22 wards...

On the subject of UKIP, to their credit they have managed to put up a full slate of 22 candidates for the nine wards that fall within the Rochester & Strood constituency. Their other two Medway-involved areas have been less successful, though, fielding just ten candidates between them, spread thinly across the other thirteen wards and with 23 places unfilled. Especially bearing in mind that their long-standing area leader has lived for years close to the Watling/Hempstead & Wigmore boundary, one might have expected better coverage in the Gillingham & Rainham wards...

The biggest disappointment, though, is having just eighteen Liberal Democrat candidates. They claim they are going for 'quality rather than quantity', but many of their supporters will not be happy to be unable to cast their vote the way they'd wish, simply because the local party seemingly hasn't bothered to put up any candidates in their ward. This is perhaps most acute in Gillingham North, a three-member ward they held from its inception on the present boundaries but lost seats through party resignations and two former members joining Labour a year or so ago.

Finally, there is just one English Democrat candidate, and there are four Independents also standing, of whom one is a former English Democrat. There are no BNP, Britain First, Respect or any other parties' candidates.

Although it hardly needs stating, just for completeness I can add that – as always – Labour and the Conservatives have a full slate of 55 candidates each.

Overall, there are a huge number of variables in this complex scenario, and still a few unknowns even to me. Most, though, is clear-cut, and I now know the most likely outcome (it hasn't changed for a long time!) with a high probability figure. That, though, will be kept secret this time! Meanwhile, between now and Polling Day, I shall be busy, doing my little bits here and there but mostly behind the scenes, invisibly, just to make sure...

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